Israeli archeologists have recovered dozens of Dead Sea Scroll fragments from a site known as the Cave of Horror, amid a broader excavation that also turned up a millennia-old mummified child and the world's oldest basket.
"We said, we need to get to these things before the robbers do", said Amir Ganor, who heads the Israel Antiquities Authority's anti-looting squad.
The Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of Jewish texts found in desert caves in the West Bank near Qumran in the 1940s and 1950s, date from the 3rd century BC to the 1st century AD.
Israel said on Tuesday it had discovered pieces of a biblical scroll dating back some 2,000 years, describing the find as one of the most significant since the Dead Sea Scrolls. The documents together offer a glimpse of what Jewish society and religion was like in the centuries before and after the time of Jesus. However, since the discovery of the Qumran scrolls in 1947 by a sheep herder, looters have visited numerous caves in the Judean desert and destroyed historical artefacts, the authority said.
"When comparing the text preserved in the newly discovered fragments to the text known to us from other versions of the text, including the verses known in the Masoretic text, numerous differences are notable, some of which were quite surprising", they said. They've been a popular and controversial topic of study ever since.
There's much still to discover, but these new discoveries give us more information to keep learning.
The moment when the Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets scroll was discovered in Muraba'at Cave.
"When we think about the biblical text, we think about something very static".
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"It wasn't static", he said.
One of the verses on the fragments is from Zechariah 8:15:"Speak truth, each man to his neighbor, and render truth and justice in your gates."But the scroll fragments feature a different ending: ".justice in your streets". "And do not contrive evil against one another, and do not love perjury, because all those are things that I hate-declares the Lord".
These fragments are believed to have been hidden during a Jewish revolt, called the Bar Kochba, against Rome between 132 and 136 CE. The Romans ultimately tracked the rebels down and laid siege to the cave until everyone inside had starved.
The new Dead Sea scroll fragments.
"The finds attest to a rich, diverse and complex way of life, as well as to the harsh climatic conditions that prevailed in the region hundreds and thousands of years ago", said Hizmi.
Also discovered in the Cave of Horror was a 6,000-year-old partially mummified skeleton of a child wrapped in cloth, with skin, tendons and hair partially preserved. The child's body was in the fetal position and wrapped in a cloth.
Aside from the name of God, which appears in Hebrew, the new scroll fragments are written entirely in Greek.
The basket pictured here is thought to be the oldest complete example in the world. Highlights of the discovery include a cache of coins bearing Jewish symbols like a harp and a date palm, arrowheads and spear tips, sandals, fabric, and lice combs.
Since October 2017, teams have surveyed 80 kilometers (49.7 miles) of desert caves, many of which are virtually inaccessible, according to the press release. The IAA chose to scour those caves to prevent treasure hunters from looting them and later trying to sell the relics on the black market.